Flower power brightens chilly days

Flower power to brighten up chilly days | In Fiona's Garden

Life & Style
Camellias, florists cyclamen, polyanthus, pansies, violas and nemesia flowering in June in a sheltered courtyard.

Camellias, florists cyclamen, polyanthus, pansies, violas and nemesia flowering in June in a sheltered courtyard.

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Nothing cheers you and the garden up more than bright colours on a frosty morning.

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Few things brighten the garden like colour. Especially flowers in mid-winter - leaves and berries are lovely but there's nothing like flowers to bring a smile to your face and a lift to your spirits.

Looking at my garden this week, I had to admit failure on the floral front. A pink nerine was hanging in gamely, Bill's pansies glistened in the mist, but that was it.

To add to the gloom the weather was appalling: three degrees Celsius at midday (feels like -3 as Elders website helpfully pointed out), heavy fog hid the snow on the mountains but didn't stop its icy chill seeping down the valley, dark clouds presaging rain hovered overhead.

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There was nothing for it but to head to a nursery for some flower power to cheer everything up, me included.

My normal nursery visits entail exhaustive preparation: I check for gaps, look through a gazillion books for ideas, make a list, re-check, make another list.

This time I told myself no list, all I wanted was flowering plants, to group in pots for maximum impact.

Limiting myself was amazingly liberating. I began with shrubs, which took exactly twenty seconds since the only ones in bloom were sasanqua camellias.

There was nothing for it but to head to a nursery for some flower power to cheer everything up, me included.

As regular readers of this column know, I strenuously oppose growing damp woodlanders like camellias unless you have the right climate for them, which we don't. But this wasn't the moment for airing prejudices, I bought a double, soft pink C. sasanqua 'Jennifer Susan' and a semi-double, red C. hiemelis 'Hiryu' (closely related to C. sasanqua), small evergreens growing to about three metres. If they don't survive next summer, at least we can enjoy them this winter.

Bright red fuchsias caught my eye next, pink and purple 'Electric Lights' and red and white 'Bella Evita'. 'Electric Lights' (to 70 centimetres) is a hybrid of F. magellanica and should be hardy; the lower growing 'Bella' hybrids are better treated as annuals.

Nemesias from South Africa are definitely not hardy but should survive a sheltered courtyard. As well as flowering almost all year, N. aromatica hybrids are faintly but appealingly scented, just the thing on frosty morns.

Polyanthus come in a rainbow of colours, purplish red, pink, gold, and I found a gorgeous scarlet with delicate gold edges. Polyanthus are hybrids of the single stemmed English primrose (Primula vulgaris) with the multi stemmed cowslip (P. verris). They are hardy perennials so I can plant them out in spring.

Blue creates a beautiful background and nurseries offer pansies and violas in every shade and combination from sky through ultramarine to blackish navy.

Pansies have the bigger blooms, four petals up, one down; violas are smaller, with two petals up and three down.

My final purchase was an irresistible, bright crimson cyclamen, destined for the kitchen but allowed outside for photographic purposes.

Last night was -2, but this morning everything was flourishing, including the cyclamen which I'd forgotten to bring inside. Nature loves having the last laugh.

  • Please note last week's gardening column was published under the incorrect byline and was in fact by Fiona Ogilvie. The Land apologises for any confusion this caused.

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